CONAKRY, Guinea – A Cuban man working in Guinea to help battle the killer Ebola virus has died of malaria, the west African nation said on Monday.
Jorge Juan Guerra Rodríguez, 60, was working as an administrator with a team of Cuban medical personnel sent to west Africa this month to stem the spread of the virus.
He died of cerebral malaria on Sunday after he tested negative for Ebola, the Guinean government’s Ebola response coordinator Sakoba Keita and Cuban officials told AFP.
“He will be buried here in Conakry on Tuesday, in accordance with the instructions of the Cuban Foreign Ministry,” Keita said.
Cuba’s health ministry said Rodríguez had not been in contact with treatment centers or with Ebola patients, but he was given two tests for Ebola, both of which were negative.
He was initially treated for diarrhea, a symptom of both malaria and Ebola, before his health rapidly deteriorated.
“In the early morning hours, … his health was worsening, and eventually he suffered multi-organ failure and died in the afternoon,” Cuba’s Health Ministry said.
The economist, from Sancti Spiritus in central Cuba, traveled to Guinea on Oct. 6 and began showing signs of illness on Oct. 22.
Cuba has sent 256 health professionals — including 83 doctors and nurses — to Ebola-stricken west Africa to help combat the spread of the deadly epidemic.
The virus has already killed more than 4,900 people, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people around the world each year, mainly children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Both ailments have similar symptoms, including fever, aches, vomiting and diarrhea, but Ebola is passed by bodily fluids, while malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes.
Cuba’s response to the Ebola epidemic has won plaudits from humanitarian workers who say the international community’s reaction has been lacking.
Eventually, Cuba plans to deploy more than 450 medical personnel in west Africa.